The cost of buying a property in Barcelona or Madrid is very high compared to other parts of Spain and financially unachievable for many buyers. The popular resorts such as Javea, Benidorm, and Salou offer cheaper possibilities, especially if you are prepared to live a mile or two inland from the coastline. However, not everyone wants to live in a city or a bustling beach resort and yearn for the tranquility of the countryside and the peace offered by a rural Spanish property.
Spain is a vast country, with an incredible landscape and has so much free empty space compared with other European countries. As such, many country properties tucked away in rural Spain represent a dream lifestyle for people who want to escape the stresses of regular life.
So, you have decided Spain is your country of choice, and you want to be away from the cities and resorts, so rural living is the optimal solution.
However, rural life in Spain is a lot different from country life in the UK. There are essential factors you must consider.
Almost 20 years ago, in 2004, the Spanish property market was booming, and prices were steadily rising. It is estimated 191,000 people relocated to Spain from the UK during this year. Still, in the same year, 105,000 British expats who relocated earlier also returned to Britain that year after failing to enjoy life in their new home.
There are numerous reasons why a person or family may be unhappy after relocating to another country, and one way to avoid falling victim to the same fate is to learn what went wrong for them.
One repeated downside returning expats from Spain describe is their chosen location’s inaccessibility or impracticality.
If moving to Spain, you need to choose the best location to meet your practical needs on a day-to-day basis. Your new home needs to be well located to meet a families basic needs, such as:
- Children need to be able to travel to school easily
- Teens need to be in an area where they can hang out with their friends
- Even recluses need some human contact at times
- It is usually optimal if you are within easy driving distance of a doctor, a chemist, and a small shop where you can buy necessities
Furthermore, you also need to consider the accessibility of your chosen location for friends and family to visit you. Even if you are locating because you want to be far away from them, you may be surprised that you miss them when you don’t see them so often!
While Spain is only a few hour’s flight from the UK, and hardly on the other side of the world, you will find it is important that you can reach your home easily once landed.
The touristic resorts are served well by airport transfer companies, at least during the spring to the autumn. Airport transfer shuttles are a great help because having to take a taxi due to very late or early flight times, or because there is no public transport service to your town, can become prohibitively expensive.
Before deciding where to settle, it is worth knowing that inaccessibility and homesickness are two common reasons returning expats most mention when returning to the UK.
Assuming you have taken the points above into consideration, it is time to decide if buying rural property is really the best choice.
Rural Spanish Property Cons
These days around 90% of would-be expats start their property search online. Once they have found a property or several properties that interest them, they get in touch with the relevant estate agency or agencies and book a flight to make an inspection trip.
However, this may not always be the optimal way to find your ideal home – it is too easy to become attached emotionally to a home because it has all the features you desire without considering the area. You need to go about the process backwards – choosing the property should be one of the last steps in the process. It is of utmost importance you get to know the dynamics of an area before you buy.
Remember, the seller contracts estate agents – whose job is to sell you a property. Therefore they might “forget” to tell you some details about the surrounding region, or more likely, there will be issues they are not aware of, having never lived in the area themselves.
For example, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere can be perfect until it rains. Spain enjoys around 300 days of sunshine in many parts of the country, but when it does rain, it can rain HARD. If your new home is only accessible by a dirt track, you could find it becomes utterly inaccessible during and after a heavy storm, and it could take days before you can correct the problem.
Apart from issues of only having a dirt track to access the property, when looking at rural properties, you need to consider if the house is connected to grid electricity and has a clean water supply.
Living off-grid can have huge advantages if you know what you are doing. However, a couple of solar panels on the roof supplying a few batteries will in no way be sufficient to run a fridge freezer, a washing machine, a widescreen TV, or many other appliances we take for granted when living with mains electricity.
Before buying rurally, you must hire a competent lawyer. An unscrupulous agent may “forget” to tell you the property cannot be connected to the mains. Or that the area was declared a green zone just two years before, and any building work, including building a small outhouse or putting up a large wooden shed, is strictly prohibited.
Your rural property may also have public rights of way, and you could find hikers, hunters, or mountain cyclists regularly moving around “your” land, with every legal right to do so.
Rural areas may also be the focus of future town hall or government plans to improve on or alter the infrastructure. So before buying a rural Spanish property, it is imperative to find out (or ask a lawyer to do so on your behalf) if there are any development plans in the pipeline that may affect your chosen area. The last thing you need is to hear your back garden may be home to a new section of motorway in two years.
Although one cannot say if you live in a rural area, your nearest neighbours maybe a little on the wild side, experience tells us you will likely find some oddballs in rural locations. Animal hoarders, squatters, and recluses who do not welcome newcomers invading their peace are all a possibility for dwellers in rural areas.
You may also find the only nearby homes are owned by Spanish people from the cities who use them as a tranquil location on occasion. Therefore if you visit your future home in the summer months of July or August and find the area reasonably well populated, this is unlikely to give the case in the wintertime. You have to think if you want to be on the hill or mountainside, with the nearest full-time neighbour located three kilometers away.
If you do decide to go rural, learning the language to some reasonable level is an absolute must. In an emergency, you would have called the emergency services yourself and explain your location, as it is highly unlikely there will be a neighbour on hand to help. Furthermore, even if there was, you would first have to explain the situation to your neighbour, and chances are your neighbours will not be from the UK or any other English-speaking country.
Rural Spanish Propert Pros
You can live off your land. Most rural properties come with vast amounts of land attached, allowing you to keep poultry, grow fruit and vegetables, and become self-sufficient.
The peace and tranquility. Complete solitude can be a negative aspect for some but utterly desirable for others, so this depends on your personality.
The most positive side of moving to a rural area is the cost of the property. In properties in remote country regions, you will find houses with enormous plots for a fraction of the price you would pay in resorts or cities.
However, this is so because of the reasons already discussed, so you must weigh up the pros and cons carefully before purchasing a rural property.
One solution is to rent a house cheaply in the area to find out just what it is like living in rural
Spain before you go ahead and buy. However, this is not always an option in remote areas, so be sure you do your homework, deal with a trusted agent, and speak to as many people as possible already living in rural properties before you lay out a deposit.
Another solution is to compromise. There are plenty of beautiful homes available, which, while not completely rural, are in quiet locations away from the tourist attractions and madding crowds. There are peaceful urbanisations with up-to-date amenities and within easy driving distance of hospitals, doctors, and at least one well-stocked supermarket.
To find out more about rural or semi-rural Spanish properties and your options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us; with 25 years of experience in the Spanish property sector, we can help.